When I recently retired, Ron Culp asked me to “share my thoughts” with those who are just starting out.
Of course, there is already a ton of great insight and advice in the postings on this site – on topics from better blogging to managing your boss.
But I want to touch on something else: values.
Specifically, understanding your own values – what matters most to you – and making sure your values fit with those of the organization you represent.
Of course, to be successful in PR, you’ll need strong PR skills. You’ll need to be a great communicator. You’ll need to understand social media and how to pitch a story. You’ll need to manage projects, build teams and shape strategies.
But you could do all these things exceptionally well and still not be fully successful – if your values are inconsistent with those of your organization.
Great PR professionals instill confidence because they believe in what they’re doing. They work for organizations whose values they not only share, but protect and advance. They are people you can trust because you can feel their conviction.
This doesn’t mean that you’ll agree with every decision your organization will make. Or that one set of values is somehow better than another. Or that any organization is perfect.
But values shape the way an organization thinks, how it decides and what it does. Values define an organization, and how well an organization lives them can either distinguish it or destroy it.
I spent my entire career at Procter & Gamble – where “superior product quality” is a core value. P&G makes terrific products. But sometimes even the best companies slip.
If there is a quality issue at P&G, the company immediately recalls the product in question. Not necessarily because it’s dangerous or some government agency said to recall it. But because to continue to sell such a product would be to violate what P&G stands for.
As a spokesperson for P&G, knowing this made all the difference for me. If you share your organization’s values, you will represent it with a full heart. And you will be able to help your organization stay true.
Your success in PR will depend on much more than your proficiency. After all, there will always be someone whose technical expertise is deeper – or some vendor which is less expensive.
Your success will depend on how well you use your skills as a full member of an organization whose values you share, and bring forward, every day.
Last year, John Smale, P&G’s CEO early in my career, spoke to our senior management team in Cincinnati, where the company was founded in 1837.
“There are some important things that haven’t changed during the course of this company’s life, and that is the basic character of this institution – our values,” he said. “These are the things that make P&G a great company.”
Don’t settle. Know what’s most important, and let it guide you.
Go where you’ll do your best work – and make the most of your gifts.
Don Tassone retired this year from P&G as Vice President-External Relations after serving 31 years in various senior PR positions. He is a graduate of Xavier University in Cincinnati.